Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Imagine a place where when you look towards the sky, all you see are monumental skyscrapers. When you look forward, you see beautiful beaches with perfect white sand. Even when you get far, far away, you see a skyline so captivating and attention grabbing that you may never look away. Now, imagine the entire place completely submerged underwater. This place isn’t the lost city of Atlantis or the Bikini Bottom, it’s Miami’s future if the climate crisis continues to drive up sea levels.
The first question at hand is how climate change is related to sea level rise, and it’s quite a simple formula. As the planet gets warmer and warmer, it affects the rise in two distinct ways: 1. Ice melts. It doesn’t sound like a large problem at first, but imagine enormous ice sheets and glaciers completely melting away into water in the sea. Antarctica is one of the most at risk places of melting, which would dramatically raise sea levels. This is directly caused by the earth rising in temperature. 2. Thermal expansion of water in oceans. Simply put, as water warms, it expands. As the world gets warmer, bodies of water expand causing sea level rise. The most nerve-racking part is this increase is happening faster every year. In the last 31 years, the Miami sea level increased by 6 inches. However, it’s forecasted that this 6 inch growth will occur again in a span of 15 years. The speed of sea level rise is expected to increase by over two times as fast.
Now that we are aware of the problem, who is affected? A majority of east coast cities (which house a majority of the population of the United States) are threatened by rising sea levels submerging them. Two cities raising particularly high concerns are Miami and New York City, some of the most famous places on Earth. In Miami, over 3.3 million people could face catastrophic flooding, with the worst case scenario being that the city is completely submerged underwater. The sea level is expected to rise by 6 feet in this time frame, which is taller than the average American. In New York City, the time frame is even shorter. In just 30 years from now, 37 percent of Lower Manhattan will be at risk of destructive storm surges. These cities are national treasures and some of the most representative states when it comes to the diversity and beauty of the United States. Therefore, it’s important to protect them now, rather than waiting for Miami and New York City to suffer.
The last thing on our minds is how on Earth (no pun intended) could we stop sea level rise. Honestly, it’s inevitable. However, the actions we take today could ensure we prevent catastrophic situations for coastal regions. As I stated earlier, sea level rise is directly linked to global warming, so fighting climate change reduces it. The first and most important step is to reduce and limit carbon footprints. This has to do with the amount of greenhouse gases we release into the atmosphere. While this is especially important for large corporations and factories that mass produce goods, it’s also on the everyday American to do their very best in reducing emissions and protecting our atmosphere. The second most important task is to protect our wetlands, such as the Everglades. These lands are natural defense mechanisms to sea level rise, as they absorb water and release it slowly. They also provide flood protection from storm surges. While protected, wetlands can naturally keep up with rising sea levels.
At the end of the day, whether it’s because you love your hometown or want to see the planet thrive for centuries, we all have a reason to fight against climate change. Little by little, everyone makes a difference.
Umar Hussain is a high school junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, FL.